The story of the whale at South Georgia

Who we are and what we do

The island of South Georgia is a UK Overseas Territory located in the South Atlantic Ocean which is a destination for 15,000+ international visitors annually. Due to its proximity to major oceanic currents, South Georgia is a wildlife haven and the site of globally significant environmental and conservation research. South Georgia’s importance as a feeding ground for whales led to it being the epicentre of a global whaling industry in the early twentieth century, driving species to near extinction.

As a result of the Habitat Restoration project (2008-2018) carried out by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) with the support of Friends of South Georgia Island (FOSGI), rodents originally brought to South Georgia on sealing and whaling vessels have been eradicated from the entire island. South Georgia’s conservation credentials are a global model of best practice, from rodent and reindeer eradication to the removal of non-native flora. These combined projects have brought about a biological renaissance for South Georgia.

South Georgia’s cultural heritage revival to celebrate the whale

Central to the story of South Georgia is the historic Flensing Plan at Grytviken Whaling Station. As the epicentre of whaling operations, it was here that whales were processed on an industrial scale — 175,250 whales were killed in factories across South Georgia (1904-1965). The largest ever blue whale (33.58 metres) was recorded at Grytviken. We believe that a new interpretation of this site can offer important lessons for future generations about how humankind can move from extreme exploitation of nature to its long-term care and stewardship, exemplified on South Georgia by the partnership between Government and its stakeholder organisations, including SGHT and FOSGI.

The Government of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands has set out a heritage framework within which SGHT and FOSGI will embark on a cultural heritage programme to tell the world more about the human story on South Georgia, how our attitudes to the natural environment have changed and the effect on the wildlife on and around the island.

It is with this backdrop that we are delighted to announce the launch of an international competition, inviting artists and designers to submit creative proposals to re-imagine the Flensing Plan at Grytviken and in so doing, communicate a poignant message about our changing attitudes to nature and the need for resolute stewardship of our oceans and the natural world.

SGHT and FOSGI are also helping to support the work of British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which is carrying out world-leading research into species that feed in South Georgia waters, such as the Southern Right Whale, Humpback Whale and Blue Whale. For many years, SGHT’s team at South Georgia Museum has also encouraged visitors to South Georgia to record whale sightings, contributing to efforts to understand what is happening to whale species globally and informing current whaling debates.

How you can help

Please support our conservation work on South Georgia by making a donation below or on our donation page.

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